Voshon St. Hill is called “Pooh Bear” by those close to him.
The South Pointe running back’s teammates were squeezing him like a stuffed animal after a 75-yard run that got the Stallions down to the Northwestern 5-yard line and set up the eventual game-winning touchdown Friday night in a 30-23 win.
Northwestern overturned a 15-0 deficit, taking a 23-22 lead with over 3 minutes left. The Trojans had all the momentum and looked set to win a fourth straight with South Pointe pinned back on its own 20. Then Pooh Bear made his timely intervention, leading to Geomni Mayfield’s game-winning touchdown.
”He’s just been fighting. All these guys, they want colleges to see them,” South Pointe coach Strait Herron said about St. Hill, who can be forgotten amidst all the Stallions’ major college prospects. “He’s just a great kid and of course there’s nothing better than being a senior and having something like that to remember the rest of your life.”
The city rivalry pitted two schools that have combined for seven championships since 2008; both won titles in their respective classifications last December and moved into new divisions this fall with equally high expectations. District Three Stadium was as full of fans as it's been in recent years.
South Pointe dominated the first half and would have been disappointed to only lead by nine points. Two promising Stallion drives were stunted inside the 10-yard line leading to 24-yard B.T. Potter field goals, and a third ended at the 22, only for Potter to comfortably blast a 39-yarder between the yellow District Three pipes for a 9-0 lead with 10 seconds left in the first quarter.
Northwestern dominated the second half, the third quarter particularly. After Derion Kendrick’s touchdown run made it 15-0 South Pointe, Jerry Howard scored a pair of touchdowns, the second an 18-yard run into the end zone on fourth-and 1 to give the Trojans their first lead.
St. Hill’s 75-yard run on first and 10 at the South Pointe 20 was a jaw-dropper. He followed great blocking, turned the corner and put on the jets before running out of gas a bit and getting tripped up by a desperate lunge deep in the Trojans’ end.
“The linemen were blocking great the whole game and I trusted them and I hit it,” said St. Hill, “and that’s what happened.”
St. Hill cramped up and left the game, which meant Mayfield spelled him on the next play. No problem; the senior backup burst into the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown, then caught the ensuing 2-point conversion to make it a 7-point contest.
South Pointe’s defense helped tip field position in the Stallions’ favor in the first half, crucial in building a 15-0 lead. Jason Winstead’s group kept everything in front of it, often having just four or five players in the box, and used collective speed to run down the Trojans’ screen passes. Only when Howard got going in the second half did South Pointe tire and struggle to slow the hosts, but Northwestern was 1-of-11 on third down and suffered a crucial turnover in the fourth quarter on a fumbled snap. Bryson Cooper recovered for South Pointe, which set up Kendrick’s second touchdown.
Northwestern held South Pointe to 36 yards on 29 carries in last season’s game, but the Stallions’ offensive line and the combo of Kendrick and St. Hill made certain that wouldn’t happen again; they finished with 274 yards on 46 attempts. Where St. Hill mostly bulled straight ahead, Kendrick was a slinky, wiggling this way and that for six runs of 10 yards or more.
Northwestern ran for 254 yards in last year’s contest, averaging nearly six yards per pop, but the Trojans fell behind early on Friday night and couldn’t establish powerful ECU commit Howard in the way they would’ve liked.
Kendrick was solid, rushing for 117 yards and two touchdowns, both in the second half. The junior was 12-for-22 passing, but didn’t turn the ball over.
"I was happy with his composure, it was a little bit better than we’ve been seeing," said Herron. "We’ve got to get better throwing, but that’s not just on him."
St. Hill was an effective compliment, racking up a game-high 130 yards on the ground.
South Pointe kicker Potter’s improved strength was obvious on opening night. Besides the well-struck field goals, Potter also bashed five kickoffs well into the end zone, the first one bounding into the bus parking lot.
Northwestern hits the road to Spartanburg for its second straight game against a 2015 state finalist, this time Dorman. South Pointe hosts Nation Ford at District Three South Stadium.
SPHS – B.T. Potter 24-yard field goal, 9:10
SPHS – Potter 24-yard field goal, 4:43
SPHS – Potter 39-yard field goal, 10.2 seconds
SPHS – Derion Kendrick 3 run (kick failed), 9:03
NHS – Jerry Howard 34 run (Thomas Gettys kick), 4:15
NHS – Moloney 1 run (pass failed), 1:14
SPHS - Kendrick 9 run (Potter kick), 9:11
NHS - Gettys 36-yard field, 6:51
NHS - Howard 18 run (Gettys kick), 3:07
SPHS - Geomni Mayfield 5 run (2-point pass to Mayfield), 2:47
RUSHING SPHS - Derion Kendrick 23-118; Voshon St. Hill 16-130; Stevie Gilmore 1-2; Geomni Mayfield 6-24. NHS - Gage Moloney 16-12; Jerry Howard 9-95; Dequez Harris 2-6.
PASSING SPHS - Kendrick 12-22-0-133, Gilmore 0-1-0-0. NHS - Moloney 21-34-0-187.
RECEIVING SPHS - Jonathan Muhammad 1-33; St. Hill 3-27; J.P. Pendergrass 4-18, Quinest Bishop 2-53, Gilmore 2-2. NHS - Jamario Holley 5-65; Jordan Starkes 4-16; Howard 5-39; Harris 4-31; Wally Wilmore 3-36.
RECORDS South Pointe 1-0; Northwestern 0-1.
Friday night’s area scores
South Pointe at Northwestern
Lancaster at Indian Land
Clover 48, Ashbrook 13
Irmo at Nation Ford
Fort Mill at Spring Valley
Lewisville at Andrew Jackson
New Covenant at Great Falls
Chester at Westwood, ppd. 10:30 a.m. Saturday
Rock Hill at Blythewood, ppd. 11 a.m. Saturday